Anzhi Makhachkala were set to be the new Chelsea, or the new Manchester City, or even to compete with fellow nouveau riche Paris Saint-Germain. After billionaire Suleyman Kerimov took over the club in January 2011, it became clear that he had designs on making the club one of the most powerful in the world, spending over $200m on players. But after Kerimov suffered a financial loss of over $300m at the beginning of August, it seemed clear that cost-cutting measures were in order for Anzhi. Club president Konstantin Remchukov used his Twitter account to announce that the budget would be cut to between $50m – $70m per year. Other clubs took notice, thinking that perhaps they might snap up star players at a bargain price.
One of those players is Brazilian midfielder Willian. Willian first came into prominence with Ukrainian side Shakhtar Donetsk, playing in the side that beat Werder Bremen to lift the UEFA Cup in 2009. He went on to feature in three seasons of Champions League play, making his presence known with a brace against AS Roma in the Round of 16 in the 2010-2011 tournament, and then scoring twice against Chelsea in the group stages last year. In addition to winning the UEFA Cup with Shakhtar, Willian helped the club to four domestic titles and three domestic cup wins.
Is it any wonder, then, that newly-flush Anzhi came calling in January 2013? They secured his services for a hefty fee, estimated to be about $45m. But after just half a season in Russia, Willian is back on the transfer market. And the big names are sniffing around, including Manchester City, Chelsea, and Tottenham Hotspur.
It’s thought that Manchester City are the ones most likely to bring Willian to England, with reports stating the Citizens have already lodged a £35m ($54m) bid. But despite Anzhi’s new cost-cutting measures, it’s believed that the club are not desperate to sell their stars, and will refuse offers they feel inadequate for their current players. And with City having already spent almost £100 on the likes of another former Shakhtar star, Fernandinho, along with Stevan Jovetic, Jesus Navas and Alvaro Negredo, they may be unwilling to up their bid for Willian.
Gonzalo Higuain and Mauro Icardi both spent some time as potential Arsenal players in the summer rumor mills, but will the former’s move to Juventus keep the latter from the Emirates Stadium?
As we wait for official confirmation that Juventus has purchased Higuain from Napoli for $103 million, it seems Napoli is aiming to replace him with Icardi. Football Italia says Inter has rejected an offer of $22 million plus Manolo Gabbiadini that would send Icardi to Naples.
[ MORE: Messi back, blonde at Barca ]
Gabbiadini has 20 goals in 60 matches for Napoli, but Icardi is among the hottest properties in the world. The 23-year-old Argentine is signed through 2019, and the fee is obviously going to be quite high, but Napoli is ready to spend money that others may not.
Many players have been rumored for the “fourth chair” behind Lionel Messi, Neymar, and Luis Suarez in the Barcelona attack orchestra, but could the issue be settled with a reserve from Atletico Madrid?
Luciano Vietto, 22, is being linked with a $24 million move from the Vicente Calderon to the Camp Nou. AS says personal terms are the only obstacle remaining, and Vietto would have a lot to prove in Barcelona. After belting 20 goals for Valencia in 2014-15, Vietto found the net just thrice in 28 matches last season.
Atleti could use that money, according to Marca, as Diego Simeone’s bunch reportedly believes it can pry Diego Costa from Chelsea. The Brazilian-born Spanish international has massive success at Atleti before moving to North London, and Simeone has not quit on the idea of bringing him back “home”.
Also, we’re just going to leave this right here, with the lone add-on that Aaron Schoenfeld is tearing it up for Maccabi’s rival.
Lionel Messi is back with Barcelona a week earlier than expected, as the Camp Nou set prepares to defend another La Liga title.
That means Messi will be on the roster for the International Champions Cup, as Barcelona is slated to play Celtic, Leicester City, and Liverpool.
[ MORE: Manchester Derby in China on Monday ]
That’s not the only surprise from the 29-year-old, who has pulled an Aaron Ramsey and dramatically altered his ‘do.
Glad to have him back on our screens a bit earlier than planned, and — although I’m far from a style icon — I’ll be just as glad when the blonde grows/washes out of his head.
Cristiano Ronaldo’s long summer has earned him an extended vacation, but the knee injury he suffered in the EURO 2016 Final would’ve kept him from this season’s first big club match anyway.
The 31-year-old star will not be available for the Aug. 9 UEFA Super Cup match between Real Madrid and Sevilla, saying he’ll be back in the mix just one day later.
[ MORE: Discussing Yedlin’s future ]
Ronaldo also said he’s going to speak with the club about extending his contract, which runs through the 2017-18 season. He’s very been vocal about his desire to finish his career at the Bernabeu, and will put pen to paper in order to prove it.
From Sky Sports:
“I spoke to the president on the phone and when I get to Madrid, we will talk about it.
“Obviously it’s something I want, I have mentioned it many times, and the club also wants it. But we only spoke briefly, and there will be more concrete things to come.”
No surprises here, though it would’ve been nice to have Ronaldo on our screens for the match-up between his Champions League winners and the Europa League champions.
Preseason matches rarely have legitimate hype, let alone live up to it.
Yet Monday will see Manchester United and Manchester City tangle outside of England for the first time in history, and there are a lot of fans looking forward to the early morning match in China.
[ MORE: Discussing Yedlin’s future ]
A lot of that has to do with it being the first match-up between Pep Guardiola and Jose Mourinho as bosses of City and United, to the extent where journalists asked whether the longtime rivals would shake hands (admittedly a weird question, as if to say, “Are you a grown-up?”).
They essentially issued the same answer, and here are Mourinho’s comments, from ManUtd.com:
“Of course I will shake his hand – why wouldn’t I? I don’t understand the question to him or to me. We were opponents for three years [in Spain] but we are professionals. I don’t see why I wouldn’t shake his hand.”
Both managers also talked, understandably, about fitness and health being their No. 1 goal of the match, and there are concerns about the pitch in China due to heavy rains.
Guardiola also gave insight into Vincent Kompany‘s continued struggles with recovery from the injury that hampered him for much of last season, refusing to give a timetable for the captain’s return.